Reforming Ministry

Last SupperIn response to my latest post on clerical abuse, Jayden Cameron (of “Gay Mystic“) has posted three stunning extended comments, which deserve closer scrutiny.  In this year of the priest, it is appropriate that we reflect not only on the role of the priests that we have, but also on ways to improve the entire priestly function, something that I have long been wanting to write about.  These remarks are worth taking very seriously:

“Found this wonderful quote/suggestion by Schillebeeckx which may seem too idealistic to implement (though who knows?), but it inspires dreams of intriguing possibilities when dealing with the crisis of ministry in the church:

It was Schillebeeckx who contended in his 1980 book Ministry: Leadership in the Community of Jesus Christ that the church had gone awry by connecting the faithful’s right to Eucharist to some “magical power” of the hierarchy to ordain, thereby disconnecting it from the community of Christians. He noted that the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century had declared any ordination of a priest or deacon illegal, as well as null and void, unless the person being ordained had been chosen by a particular community to be its leader.

Because the church has basically ignored that clear directive of the early church throughout the second millennium, Schillebeeckx recommended “new possibilities” for reconnecting the Eucharist to its community roots, even if such actions contradict current church law. In “Church and Ministry,” the newly released document, the Dominicans put forward such “new possibilities” as this: “Men and women can be chosen to preside at the Eucharist by the church community; that is, ‘from below,’ and can then ask a local bishop to ordain these people ‘from above.’ ”

If, however, “a bishop should refuse a confirmation or ordination” of such persons “on the basis of arguments not involving the essence of the Eucharist, such as a requirement that deacons or priests be celibate, parishes may move forward without the bishops’ participation, remaining confident “that they are able to celebrate a real and genuine Eucharist when they are together in prayer and share bread and wine.”

taken from interview in NCR December 14, 2007

On the same topic, this may be old news, but it’s news to me, and it seems to be a real solution to the present ills -resist the bullys.
Great article here:
Dutch Dominican priests are proposing a bold solution to the priest shortage in the Netherlands: Have the laity select leaders from their own faith communities and designate them as the official presiders at Mass.

Using a model based in the early church, the Dominicans propose that the communities then present their chosen local leaders to bishops and request that they be ordained.

The leaders selected may be men or women, homosexuals or heterosexuals, married or single, the Dominicans say in a 38-page booklet, “Kerk en Ambt” (”The Church and the Ministry”), which was widely distributed to Dutch parishes, religious orders and bishops on Aug. 31.

The Dominican authors of the booklet, subtitled “Toward a Church with a Future,” maintain there is no theological barrier, but only a clerical impasse –the law of celibacy–to ordaining a lay clergy. They cite, for instance, a statement made by the fifth-century Pope Leo the Great: “He who has to lead all should be chosen by all.”

Although the booklet reflects questions being raised not only by many of the 4.4 million Catholics in the Netherlands, but by the faithful in many parts of the Catholic world, the primate of the Dutch Catholic church, Cardinal Adrianus Simonis of Utrecht, quickly objected.

Dominican Fr. Jan Nieuwenhuis, one of the booklet’s four authors, noted in an interview that Dominicans had anticipated official displeasure over the booklet’s distribution without the cardinal’s permission. “We knew if we requested it, it would be forbidden, so we went ahead,” Nieuwenhuis told NCR.

And here is an even more ‘radical’ solution to the issue, something I’ve been feeling for some time. It comes from the blogspot:

“Was thinking as a result of the recent Episcopal and Lutheran conventions in which thousands of dollars or more is spent to bring everyone together to have cantankerous battles over women bishops, gay and lesbian clergy and relationships, married priests, not to mention the upkeep of church buildings, that perhaps another way exists for being Church. (Large national synods are coming in the Roman Catholic Church soon here in the States, with the impetus coming from 99% of the church membership–so-called lay folks–not from the hierarchy–so this applies here as well).

Why don’t we look to our Jewish brethren for some guidance? Perhaps we could move ‘church’ back into the home. It seems to me that we could ordain one or two members of a family to serve as celebrants for the household or extended family. This would be similar to Passover or weekly Shabbat (Sabbath) dinners in which bread and wine are blessed in the middle of the family. Ordinations could be held in monastery or convent chapels. Perhaps we might have places to celebrate great feasts with a larger community for those who so wish. We might have servant-bishops as resource persons not rulers.”

Thank you, Jayden.


One Response to “Reforming Ministry”

  1. Phillip Clark Says:

    Hopefully the Church can rediscover the wisdom of its early days. When Our Lord instituted the Eucharist in the Cencale He was in a room filled with men AND women. Although the current thinking of the Church teaches that it was during this moment at the Last Supper that Jesus simultaneously instituted the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and of Holy Orders. The fact that he exhorted His Apostles to “do this in memory of Me” is the evidence given for Jesus innaugurating the priesthood at this precise moment. But there were certainly others present in the Upper Room on that first Holy Thursday, Scripture proves it. And, technically, the priesthood as an institution was not something that was laid down by Jesus Christ but was an entity that developed over time under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

    Early on in his book “The Catholic Church: a Short History” Fr. Hans Kung notes that, in one of his Epistles, St. Paul thinks it quite ordinary that the Eucharist is celebrated without him or any of the other Apostles (who at that point would have been the only other individuals who were “ordained” according to the current train of thought among the leaders of the Church). This proves that at least in some circumstances, the laity should be able to assume more of a leadership role in the celebration of the Eucharist.

    This assertion reflects the notion that when one is baptized into the Body of Christ we are all initiated into the priesthood of all believers. Although it is distinct from the ministerial, sacramental priesthood, it is clear that in the early Church there were several different levels of leadership (elder, prophet, deacon, presbyter, Apostle) that were recognized as being legitimately exercised in the Name and Spirit of Christ.

    I do, firmly, believe that when the Holy Eucharist is celebrated the bread and wine present are changed sacramentally and subtantially into the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I think that this fact is clear from the discourses about the Eucharist that Jesus had in the Sixth Chapter of St. John’s Gospel. St. Paul also clearly and unambiguously states a robust belief in the Real Presence.

    But the question at hand is: can the Real Presence of Christ, in all cirumstances, only be brought about and confected through the hands of an ordained priest? This is what Schillebeeckx is hinting at. Scripture and history tell another story. The ordained priesthood was not a reality until well after the Second Century. How then was the Eucharist confected until the rules for the laying on of hands were drawn up? These are the questions that the leaders of the Church SHOULD be asking and pondering but obviously ARE NOT and, until by some miracle of the Holy Spirit, WILL NOT do.

    To me, it doesn’t seem like that harmful of a notion to consider. Taking into consideration the way things are now within the Church when circumstances do not allow for an ordained priest to preside at the celebration of the Holy Eucharist why could some guidelines not be drawn up to allow certain designated laymembers to preside? The reason the leaders of the Church will not even consider this possibility is because it would open the door to the obvious; women’s ordination and I think that is very sad.

    When Jesus said, “Do this in memory of Me” was He only speaking to the twelve Apostles or to all those gathered in the Cenacle?

    The disgraceful event which was described above I don’t even want to spend too much time thinking about because it fills me with both sadness and fury. It’s obvious that it’s just another example of the hierarchy using homosexuals as scapegoats for all their problems because it’s convenient. Hopefully, some member of the hierarchy who still has some level of integrity will one day speak out against this blatant discrimination which is against the compassionate spirit of Christ and His holy Gospel.

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